“Are you sure this is the right way?”
“Yes,” I reply, double checking my GPS.
“But I don’t see any arrows,” my fellow peregrino points out.
We look around and spot - on the far side of the road - the distinct Camino waymarking sign.
That’s what happens when you’re too busy chatting and not paying attention to where you’re going.
There’s something magical about walking in solitude through rural villages in the morning fog: the only sounds being ocean waves crashing along the shore, birds chirping and the rhythmic crunch of your walking boots on the Camino path. The Portuguese coastline is particularly stunning and best enjoyed in quietude.
“Bom dia (good morning),” I call out as I stride past a local woman, my trekking poles setting a steady pace.
“Bom dia. Bom Camino,” she replies.
My first acknowledgement as a pilgrim, half an hour into my 261 km trek along the Camino Portuguese, bound for Santiago de Compostella in Spain.
I was on my way. Finally. It had already taken me more than an hour just to get to the starting point.
Hey, what you doin’ back there? Dobby and Hawk glance back at me as I press down on the brake.
“Steady,” I reassure them, “Steady.” I keep my foot firmly on the brake to stop the sled from taking a tight corner too fast.
Left to their own speed, the dogs would send the sled slipping and sliding into the trees or topple over the snow embankments.
I hobbled off my sled as we returned to the ranch following a 30km ride on our second day out with the dogs.
When we left at 10.30am the temperature was hovering around -22 degrees Celsius and dropped to -30 by afternoon. Despite two pairs of socks and thick rubber boots, my toes and feet were numb and in excruciating pain. Heat warmer pads in our mits held the frostbite at bay during the day but had no effect in our boots.
While I yearned for the warmth of our cabin and a hot cup of tea, I hung back to unharness the dogs, take their booties off, pack the sled and return it to the shed. I could barely walk.
“Come on, Kaze. Here girl,” I call out to one of my doggy team. “Let’s get this harness on.”
Kaze looks at me impassively from her kennel. It’s -22 degrees… I don’t think so.
“Come on, Kaze,” I persist. “Let’s go for a ride.”
Once I finally convince her to come out of her kennel, I chase Kaze around trying to get her harness on. Think: Chasing little kids to get them dressed. Same thing.
Technology and my introvert nature are an ideal combination for a reclusive existence.
Since the advent of Skype, Facebook, Google, online banking, mobile phones, telework (working from home) and distance learning, being a hermit is an increasingly attractive alternative to face-to-face interaction.
Add a recently acquired coffee machine into the equation, and there’s no reasonable excuse to leave the house any more - except maybe for groceries, weekly choir sessions and the occasional social engagement.
Why go out into the world when I’ve got the world at my keyboard fingertips!
I should’ve realised the day was off to a bad start with the cold shower. That was the first clue.
The power’s gone off. I’d better go and have another word with those boys upstairs – they’ve been unwittingly tripping the power by using a faulty light switch.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” says the landlord, “There’s no power in the street today from 8am till 2pm.”
That information would’ve been handy - if I had it the day before.
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
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